Day Exteriors: Changing Direction of the Sun for Close-Ups

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Day Exteriors: Changing Direction of the Sun for Close-Ups

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For this post I’ll go into how to make a beautiful close up using natural light. We shot this close up at 1:30pm. I love to use back light as much as possible. I never find that it bumps in the edit when every direction is backlit. This is something you have to get out of your head. Remember, whatever looks good, looks good. We can cheat a little and control light a little to make it more appealing to the eye. I try to shoot my wide shots first when the light is perfect, and also because I cannot change the direction of the sun in wide shots. Wish I could. HAHA!!! Then when the sun is too high and looks flat, you come for the close up and shape and change the direction of the sun to your liking.

There will be times when I embrace the flat frontal light on someone instead of making every direction backlit, but this is a creative choice just like making every direction backlit. In Crazy/Beautiful I embraced the hard frontal sunlight to add to the drama of the scene when she fell asleep on the beach and Carlos was so in the moment that he forgot about the interview with Nicole’s Dad for getting into Annapolis. Carlos’s direction is backlit but I used the intense sun to get us into the scene by burning Nicole’s face out and then closing down on the exposure to bring it to a balanced image.

Nicole’s face is burned out by the hard frontal sunlight.

Nicole’s face is burned out by the hard frontal sunlight.

Nicole’s face becomes balanced as I close down on exposure.

Nicole’s face becomes balanced as I close down on exposure.

Notice Carlos is being backlit, and Nicole is being lit straight on by the sun.

Notice Carlos is being backlit, and Nicole is being lit straight on by the sun.

With Kyra’s shot, at 1:30pm the sun was high in the sky and easy to manipulate using overheads. Here’s what the shot looks like with specs written on the bottom left:

Close up shot of Kyra. Notice the text in the bottom left.

Close up shot of Kyra. Notice the text in the bottom left.

Now let’s take a look at the sun position and blocking for this shot.

Top down schematic of blocking and sun position

Top down schematic of blocking and sun position

As explained in part three of this series, we start this scene with three 12×12 solids on the ground and two 12×12 frames to create a nice down side on their faces to the camera. Here’s a top down schematic of the current, but not final, setup of this shot:

Top down schematic

Top down schematic

How to shape the light with negative fill and diffusion overhead frames

With this set up, we managed to create nice contrast on the down side of Kyra’s face. However, at 1:30pm, Kyra has a strange cut of light coming across her face.

Notice the weird strip of light coming across Kyra’s face.

Notice the weird strip of light coming across Kyra’s face.

To get rid of that light strip on her face, we bring in our overhead. In this case it is a 12×12 light grid cloth frame.

Bringing in the 12x12 light grid cloth frame

Bringing in the 12×12 light grid cloth frame

With the light grid cloth frame, our light has been softened.

Side by side comparison of before and after the 12x12 light grid cloth frame

Side by side comparison of before and after the 12×12 light grid cloth frame

Changing the direction of the sun by using mirror and reflector boards

This is starting to look good, but now we are completely missing the sun. To bring it back so our light looks less flat, I’m going to use natural light. We are going to bring in two different devices to shape one hard source (the sun).

Matthews Mirror Board

Matthews Mirror Board

With the Matthews Mirror Board, we are going to take the sun and direct it to our second device, a Matthews Reflector Board.

Here, I am pointing to the Matthews Reflector Board.

Here, I am pointing to the Matthews Reflector Board.

Notice how we are redirecting the light and how we raised the reflector board to mimic the sun.

Notice how we are redirecting the light and how we raised the reflector board to mimic the sun.

With the Reflector Board, we want to mimic the sun. At this time of day around 1pm, the sun is very high, so we raise the mirror board up and angle it so it creates a nice backlight on Kyra, matching the sun’s height of 9:30am, not 1pm, because this is too high. Remember, because backlight is beautiful.

Left: Matthews Reflector Board, Right: Notice the light on Kyra’s back.

Left: Matthews Reflector Board, Right: Notice the light on Kyra’s back.

Here’s what the image looks like with the backlight. The sun is back!

Side by side comparison of before the backlight was reflected onto Kyra, and after.

Side by side comparison of before the backlight was reflected onto Kyra, and after.

Doing the final tweaks to finesse the close up

Now let’s take a look at the shot. It’s looking good, but now Monette’s hat is taking attention away from Kyra. Monette’s hat is too white.

Notice Monette’s hat

Notice Monette’s hat

To fix this problem, I’m going to bring in a 2×3 solid to darken Monette’s hat. I’m going to use it as a topper, and it also will be a lens flag.

Setting the 2x3 solid to darken Monette’s hat

Setting the 2×3 solid to darken Monette’s hat

The 2×3 solid adds nice contrast in the foreground of the shot, bringing more attention to Kyra.

Notice how much darker Monette’s hat has gotten.

Notice how much darker Monette’s hat has gotten.

The last thing we will add to this shot is a nice round circle bounce.

Notice the round bead board bounce.

Notice the round bead board bounce.

This will add a nice reflection in Kyra’s eyes, ambience, and nice contrast.

Side by side comparison, with and without the bounce

Side by side comparison, with and without the bounce

Notice the reflection in her eyes created by the bead board bounce.

Notice the reflection in her eyes created by the bead board bounce.

To recap:

  • We have three 12×12 solids on the ground to prevent unnecessary fill light kicking up from the dirt.
  • There are two 12×12 frames to help darken the down side to camera.
  • We brought in a 12×12 light grid cloth frame to soften the light
  • We have cheated a natural backlight by ricocheting the sun with a Matthews Mirror Board, into a Matthews Reflector board, which then is aiming the light at Kyra’s back.
  • A 2×3 solid was placed over Monette’s hat to darken it and create nice contrast in the foreground.
  • I bring in a round bead board bounce to add some nice reflection into Kyra’s eyes.
  • Finally, do what looks good. Backlight is beautiful, and when the sun is high in the sky, it is easier to shape with overheads.

Here is a top down schematic of the setup:

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All videos were edited on HP Z840 workstations using HP Z24x DreamColor monitors.

TECHNICAL SPECS
16:9 Digital Capture
1080p Capture and Delivery
ISO 850
K: 5200

Cameras
Canon EOS C300 (EF Mount)
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Lenses
Canon L series 16mm-35mm f2.8
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Canon L series 24mm-70mm f2.8
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Canon Cinema Prime Lens Set (14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm)
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Support
Freefly MōVI M15
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Walter Klassen SlingShot (for MōVI)
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Cartoni Master Fluid Head and Tripod
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Camera AKS

Hocus Products Axis 1 Wireless Follow Focus System
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Bright Tangerine Misfit Atom Matte Box
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Bright Tangerine Misfit Matte Box
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Rode VideoMic Pro
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Monitors

Flanders CM250 (Lighting Monitor)
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Flanders BM090
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Batteries

Canon BP-A60 Battery for Canon C300
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Blueshape BV90 (for MōVI)
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Blueshape BV180
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Blueshape 8 Channel Charger and Monitoring Utility (Charges 4 batteries simultaneously)
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Blueshape 4 V-Mount Power Station (Hot-swappable large power source)
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Tools

Sekonic C-700 (Color Meter)
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Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478D Light Meter
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Grip Equipment

Matthews 4×4 Silver Reflector Board

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Matthews 4×4 Mirror Board

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Matthews Quacker Clamp
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Matthews C-Stands
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Matthews Baby C-Stand
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Matthews Combo Stands
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Matthews 4’x4’ Solid Floppies
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Matthews 2’x3’ Solid Flag
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Matthews 12×12 Frame (with ears and corners)
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Matthews 12×12 Matthbounce
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Matthews 12×12 Solid
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Matthews 8×8 Frame
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Matthews 8×8 Silent Grid
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Matthews 25lb Shotbag
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Matthews Cordura 35lb Sandbags
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#1 Grip Clip
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#2 Grip Clip
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#3 Grip Clip
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4×4 Lowe’s Insulation Board (Bead Board)
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Rope (to secure frames)
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